Stevens: New Mexico Lobos Softball 2012 Season Review

May 16, 2012

New Mexico Lobos Softball - 2012 Season Review

By Richard Stevens - Senior Writer/

In a softball season marked by bold and dramatic strides forward, it's probable that a few steps backward also will prove to be important lessons to help push Erica Beach's New Mexico Lobos where they want to go.

  • To a conference championship.
  • To the NCAA postseason.

    For sure, the Lobos learned to win in a big-time way in 2012 with stunning wins over teams like Oregon, Northwestern, Texas A&M, Oregon State and a handful of talented California teams - wins that helped push the Lobos into the Top 25 for the first time in 13 seasons.

    "The start we got off to was incredible," said Beach. "We reached almost all the goals we had set for the program this season. If someone was to hand me our record and our stats for this season in January, I would have been pretty excited about it.

    "The girls did so many positive things that we can build on in the future. We are leaving this season feeling really good about what we did and where we expect to go."

    The Lobos clearly shocked the world of college softball with their 5-0 start in Tempe, Ariz., with wins over Oregon, Western Michigan, Idaho State, Northwestern and Texas State. UNM continued to play winning softball and on Feb. 28 became the first Lobo team since 1999 to crack into the Top 25.

    The Lobos ran to a 17-2 start to finish 27-25 and post the program's first winning season since 2001, the first 20-plus season since 2008, and the most wins in a season since 2004.

    Stefanie Carramusa

    The Lobos became known as a long-ball power that played with solid defense and crafty, not overpowering, pitching in the circle. New Mexico, behind Jessica Garcia and Stefanie Carramusa, was ranked No. 1 in the nation for home runs during the entire regular season with 1.83 per game and 95 total.

    UNM hit at least one homer in all but nine games. The Lobos had a game high five home runs on February 17 at home against Bryant.

    The Lobos led the Mountain West in almost every offensive category including batting (.311), slugging percentage (.568), runs (347), hits (455), RBIs (319) triples (11), total bases (832) and home runs (95). UNM had seven run-rule wins in 2012 and nine Lobos hit one home run or more.

    Senior Jessica Garcia finished No. 2 in MW batting (minimum 80 at-bats) with a .448 average with Kerry Hodgins in the No. 5 spot (.369) and Carramusa at No. 6 (.366).

    Garcia topped the league in RBIs (69) and was the 2012 home-run champion with 24, beating out Carramusa's 23 dingers. Garcia and Carramusa both finished rated No. 3 in the NCAA in home runs per game (.44) with Garcia No. 3 nationally with 24 and Carramusa No. 4 with 23.

    The long-ball race between Garcia and Carramusa was a compelling footnote throughout the season as Carramusa took an early lead only to be passed in the final weeks by Garcia, who had previously tied the school mark with 13 home runs in 2011.

    "The home-run race between Jessica and Stefanie was exciting to the very end," said Beach.

    The 2012 Lobos set two Mountain West records: 1- For most home runs by a team in a single season, erasing BYU's mark of 87 set in 2007; 2- Set a league mark for team slugging percentage of .568, bettering BYU's .559 percentage from 2010.

    Beach's squad placed three players on the 2012 All-Mountain West team: Chelsea Anaya, Carramusa and Garcia. This is the first time on the team for Anaya and Garcia, while Carramusa is a repeat selection. UNM also had five Mountain West Player/Pitcher of the Week Awards: Garcia, Shenise Cox, Carramusa (twice) and Carrie Sheehan.

    "We got three all-conference players," said Beach. "All of them were just landmarks in our lineup. They were so consistently good."

    "To go where we want to go, you have to learn to deal with expectations and the pressure that comes with winning."

    The growth of the Lobos as a team and as a program was accented by what Beach's Lobos did at the plate in one season. They raised their 2011 batting average from .297 to .311, runs from 217 to 347, total bases from 570 to 832, RBIs from 197 to 319 and home runs from 40 to 95. The improvement was staggering considering UNM made similar progress at the plate in 2011.

    The Lobos need to make similar strides in pitching. UNM's team ERA this season was .546 and soared to .688 in Mountain West games.

    While the beginning of the season handed the Lobos the pleasant lessons that came with victory and rankings, the tail end of the season offered the more painful lessons that come from struggling. UNM went 5-19 down the stretch to finish last in the five-team Mountain West with a league mark of 2-10.

    In a way, it was a tale of two halves for UNM - 17-2 and 5-19. Beach sees valuable lessons in both halves. Her Lobos learned how to start in 2012. They need to learn how to finish in 2013.

    "You want to finish strong. That was disappointing," said Beach. "We'll let how we finished help fuel our motivation for next year. I think toward the end of the season we put too much pressure on ourselves to be good and tried too hard. But I can't say we didn't let the pressure get to us.

    "To go where we want to go, you have to learn to deal with expectations and the pressure that comes with winning. We lived through that pressure and we learned something about that experience and what we have to change in order to deal with it. It's difficult to maintain excellence through 56 games, but if that's the level we want to play at, we have to learn how to do it.

    "It's a culture thing. You have to be mentally ready to handle winning, too, and this program hasn't had to do that in a long time. You have to grow into handling all that and we still have some growing to do. That's one of our challenges for next year."

    At the end of the 2011 season, Beach said an important part of that season was to take her program to a higher starting point for the next season. Again, the Lobos have done exactly that.

    Lobo 2012 Team Awards: Defensive Player of the Year -- Jessica Lujan-Dresslar (center field). Offensive Player of the Year -- Jessica Garcia. Pitcher of the Year -- Carrie Sheehan. Spirit Award -- Kari Gutierrez. Most Improved Player -- Jordan Sjostrand. Most Valuable Player -- Jessica Garcia